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Analysis

Arkansas Medicaid Work Requirement Faces Legal Challenge

By Steven Porter  
   August 14, 2018

Some of the same groups that prompted a federal judge to block Kentucky's work requirements are following a similar play book in Arkansas.

Advocacy groups that successfully challenged the approval of Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky earlier this summer have turned their attention to Arkansas.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in the D.C. District Court, the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and Legal Aid of Arkansas argued that Health and Human Services acted in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner when it approved the Medicaid waiver that allowed Arkansas to implement work requirements in June.

"This lawsuit is the continuation of our work, with our state and national partners, to stop the Trump administration's attempt to transform Medicaid from a health insurance program to a work program—and along the way, to end coverage of medically necessary care for thousands of low-income people," NHeLP Legal Director Jane Perkins said in a statement.

Charles Gresham, one of three plaintiffs in the suit, suffers from a seizure disorder and has a tough time maintaining steady employment, putting his health insurance at risk, according to an SPLC statement. What's more, the 37-year-old cannot use the program's required online reporting system without assistance, the lawsuit states.

The other two plaintiffs, 40-year-old Cesar Ardon and 44-year-old Marisol Ardon, are separated spouses. Each of them had major surgeries to remove tumors within the past two years, and each have had difficulty accessing the mandatory online portal, according to the complaint.

Kevin De Liban, an attorney with Legal Aid of Arkansas Attorney, said the Arkansas waiver plan is "backwards."

"Cutting people's health care and making them jump through administrative hoops will make it harder for our clients to work and make a better life, not easier," De Liban said in a statement.

"Medicaid coverage enables people with limited incomes and no health insurance to become healthy. Without access to health services, it is nearly impossible to be healthy enough to find and keep a job," he added.

Medicaid work requirements have been approved in Kentucky, Arkansas, Indiana, and New Hampshire, with applications pending in Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said late last month that the Trump administration would continue approving such waiver requests, despite Kentucky's waiver being blocked, as The Hill reported.

"We will continue to litigate, we will continue to approve plans, we are continuing to work with states, and we'll drive forward," Azar said.

Arkansas Medicaid Work Requirement Faces Legal Challenge by HLMedit on Scribd

Steven Porter is editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

As the Trump administration reassesses its approach to Kentucky's waiver request, consumer advocacy groups are aiming to replicate their success in a second state.

Two of the three groups challenging the Arkansas waiver approval were involved in the Kentucky case as well.


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